Lately, I have been reading through John’s Gospel, and as I have been reading it has become apparent to me that Jesus has a different understanding than me of how the Christian life works. I have read so many parenting books, I am always concerned about whether or not I am doing the right things with and for my kids, having the right conversations, and teaching them what God wants them to know. But the question that I have to ask myself is not if I am teaching them to know and do the right things, rather and to know and love the right person.
When you write a parenting book, people look to you to be an expert on how to raise kids. They want you to tell them what to do so that their kids or even this generation of kids will turn out right. And when you write a book full of conversations that pressure becomes even more pronounced. But the problem is we are asking the wrong question, and looking for the wrong answer. Jesus in his kindness gives us two pictures to help us understand the right question and the correct answer.
Jesus gives us the most beautiful picture of a parent I have ever heard in Luke 15:11-32 the Parable of the Generous Father. We all know this parable, 2 sons, one that is a wild man and the other, a pretentious know-it-all.
First, the wild man, takes his inheritance, insulting his father, and goes to spend it on wine and women. He doesn’t care about the outcome, he doesn’t care about the effect it will have on his father or his family, he only wants what is his, his inheritance.
Second, The know-it-all always obeys, always does what is right and good, but is expecting his inheritance as the payment for his years of hard labor. He is angry, bitter and thinks his generous father is unfair, unwise, and unkind.
What is so funny about this parable is that both children were raised by the same father. We don’t hear any descriptive words about this parent but when we look at his actions we can tell all about his parenting. He is kind, generous, wise, patient, and merciful with both sons.
What is amazing is that the Father knows his sons, he knows where they are, and how they will respond to his actions.
What is amazing is that the Father knows his sons, he knows where they are, and how they will respond to his actions. He understands that the wild man will run his course, that the security and pleasure he is seeking will ultimately run out when his bank account runs dry, and he will remember his Dad who loved him so much, who was a generous man (v 17). He knows that his son will return eventually, where else can he go? So, he waits patiently and watches. And when the son returns, the Father knows what will make the wild man know he is loved, so he gives him the very thing the son used to tell the father he hated him, access to the remaining inheritance. He also knows the know-it-all will hate his merciful generosity, so he goes and finds him. The Generous Father isn’t looking at the outward actions, he “judges the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7).
You see, neither son deserved the inheritance. The Father didn’t give it because they deserved it. Why did he give it then? Because he loved them. He didn’t take their obedience or love for him as a referendum on his parenting, instead, he continued to love them. This is the point, even though we don’t read about Jesus in this parable, he is the one telling it, telling Israel, and telling us that it is his obedience that brings us into the Father’s love. I don’t think it is any coincidence that this parable and the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector and we hear him say, “I tell you this man” (the tax collector, the sinner, the broken one).
Here is the point, while obedience is good, Jesus is better. If we parent to either keep our kid from being bad or try only to make them good and they grow up without understanding that Jesus is received “by grace through faith and this is not of their works” (Eph. 2:8-9), then we have missed the point. So, today give your children Jesus, plug them into the life-altering power of Jesus.